An Ontario lawyer forwarded us what appears to be a new variation of the old bad cheque scam in which a lawyer is contacted from a client overseas to collect on a debt, divorce settlement or facilitate a large equipment purchase (see our full list of these emails here).

In this version the clients claim to be frozen out of their bank account and suffering hardship, and need a lawyer’s assistance to unlock their funds. The elaborate (and entertaining) story does go to the trouble to refer to the CBA and the supposed Greenville Offshore bank they claim is located in Toronto. A Google search of the bank found this URL which may trigger your browser’s security settings and appears to have only been created recently:

The likely aim of this scam is to have the lawyer contact the “bank” to ask to unlock the funds. The contact at the bank would be in on the fraud and agree to release the funds in the form of a cheque to the lawyer. The cheque would be counterfeit. Upon receipt of the payment the clients would ask the lawyer to deduct a percentage as their fee and wire the remainder overseas. A few days later the cheque would bounce and the lawyer would be left with the shortfall.

Here is the email the lawyer received (we have altered the name, email address and phone number of the sender):

From: abc defghi [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2023 1:52 PM
Subject: Urgent please: Frozen bank account

How are you.
Please, most kindly – we need your help.
I found you on the cba-website as a recommended pro bono attorney – but if that does not catch your attention my boyfriend and I can pay asap when our account is open.

Most kindly read this email. Thank you milluons for your time.
Our situation has become extremely urgent.
We need help to release our funds that has been frozen by a bank in Toronto, Greenville Offshore bank.

My boyfriend has conducted absolutely legal business dealings. The bank froze the account because accessed it from different IP-adresses.
We are now in bad condition without any food and assigments (we lost a huge assigment because we could not access funds).
Our only hope is to find an attorney that can charge a percentage when our funds are released.
We are on the way to lose everything we started to build because of this.

The bank refuse to give us access to our own money. This has resulted in starvation and serious health problems. We both tried to work to collect funds, and strangely enough none of our employers paid us and both went bankrupt.

My boyfriend caught hemohrroids that were severe and together with not having enough food he has now been in hospital for 3 months and 3 surgeries. Because the insurance was not paid I took a new job and have paid large sums fluently for his hospital stay. Every cent went into saving his life. The home in Atlanta is padlocked and we are on the way to lose our Swedish property also.

Before this happens we need the money in the bank that is ours. Nobody can survive without access to funds and the bank has now destroyed our business. The account carries a bit above 500 000 USD plus GBP and EURO at around the value of 50 000 USD.

I have tried to find legal assistance because we have no money to pay a retainer and when I found the cba-website I cried because I feel hope for the first time.

I ask you from the bottom of my heart to take our case. I dont understand how the bank can have a legal right to keep our money for so long.

Most kindly email me and I will call you.

My number is:
Sweden +46 55 55 555
Prefix to call out: 011

Thank you for reading this email.
Again, I ask you for help from the bottom of my heart. We are exhausted.

Kind regards
abc defghi

How to Handle a Real or Suspected Fraud

If you have been targeted by any of these frauds, please forward any of the emails and supporting documents that you have received to [email protected]. We use this information for the warnings we post on AvoidAClaim. We do not disclose the names of firms that have provided us with information.

Ontario Lawyers – Call LAWPRO

If you are an Ontario lawyer acting on a matter that you suspect might be a fraud, call LAWPRO at 1-800-410-1013 (416-598-5899). One of our Fraud Team members will talk you through the common fraud scenarios we are seeing and help you spot red flags that may indicate you are being duped. This will help you ask appropriate questions of your client to determine if the matter is legitimate or not. If the matter you are acting on turns out to be a fraud, we will work with you to prevent the fraud and minimize potential claims costs.

What can you do to help put a stop to the fraud attempt?

You can simply stop replying to the fraudster’s emails or inform them that you suspect fraud and will not act on the matter. You can report the fraudsters’ email addresses to the email hosting company. If you have a fraudulent cheque you can destroy it or send it to the fraud department of the financial institution it is drawn upon. In Canada, you can report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

We are often asked if it is worthwhile to report the fraud attempt to the police in the hopes of helping catch the fraudsters. You can certainly report the fraud to your local or federal law enforcement agencies, but unfortunately it is often difficult, expensive and time consuming for them to attempt to shut down these online fraud perpetrators (though there are some successes).

What if the fraud has been successful?

If you have been successfully duped, please immediately notify LAWPRO as there may be a claim against you. See the LAWPRO website for instructions on how to report a claim.

For more immediate updates on fraud and claims prevention, subscribe to the email or RSS feed updates from LAWPRO’s AvoidAClaim blog.

Fraud Fact Sheet

More fraud prevention information and resources are available on the practicePRO Fraud page, including the Fraud Fact Sheet, a handy reference for lawyers and law firm staff that describes the common frauds and the red flags that can help identify them. To proactively prevent trust account shortfalls and malpractice claims, LAWPRO encourages firms to teach their lawyers and staff about fraud and how to recognize fraud attempts.

Categories: Fraud Prevention